British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wears a black mask outside No. 10 Downing Street.
Boris Johnson said his Government is trying to “avoid the misery” of a second national lockdown.(AP: Kirsty Wigglesworth)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted calls for a short “circuit breaker” lockdown across England, but says he has ruled nothing out.

Key points:

  • The UK introduced a new local and regional level lockdown system this week
  • The Labour Party is calling for a 2-3 week, nationwide lockdown
  • It was earlier revealed the Prime Minister ignored his scientific advisers, who suggested a “circuit-breaker” lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19

With cases rapidly rising, the British Government opted this week for a three-tier system of local measures.

The Liverpool area became the first part of the country in the highest category, requiring bars, gyms and other businesses to shut, perhaps for months.

Mr Johnson said he would stick to this localised approach, responding to Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer’s demand for a temporary national lockdown.

“The whole point is to seize this moment now to avoid the misery of another national lockdown,” Mr Johnson told Parliament.

“We’re going to do it — and I rule out nothing, of course, in combating the virus — but we are going to do it with the local, the regional approach that can drive down and will drive down the virus if it is properly implemented.”

A man in a face mask crosses a street in London
Even some of Mr Johnson’s advisers are speaking in favour of a short lockdown.(Reuters: Simon Dawson)

The British Government’s critics say a short, sharp nationwide lockdown could be more effective than local measures, and would spread the economic burden more fairly.

Sir Keir called for a 2-3 week lockdown, a recommendation supported this week by a study from some of Mr Johnson’s scientific advisers, which found such a move could save thousands of lives.

“The optimal time for a break is always now,” said the paper, co-authored by Graham Medley, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, and Matt Keeling of the government’s pandemic modelling subgroup.

“There are no good epidemiological reasons to delay the break.”

Manchester rejects call to move to highest alert tier

Greater Manchester’s regional government on Wednesday rejected efforts to move it into highest tier of coronavirus risk, saying infection rates and levels of hospitalisation in the metropolitan area are much lower than those in Liverpool.

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Local authorities also said the UK Government wasn’t offering enough financial assistance to mitigate the economic impact of such a move.

“If the Government pursues its current strategy, we believe it will leave large parts of the north of England trapped in Tier 3 areas for much of the winter, with all the damage that will do,” the Greater Manchester Combined Authority said.

On Tuesday night in Liverpool, revellers poured into the streets to dance and taunt police as pubs closed ahead of the tough new restrictions there.

People walk at night in a square in Liverpool, England.
People in Liverpool made sure they got out before restrictions kicked in but some of their behaviour angered the city’s Mayor.(Reuters: Phil Noble)

Social media showed the images, including one video of a police car slowly moving through the crowd as partiers banged on the side of the car.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson wrote on Twitter: “These pictures shame our city, attacking our brave police officers is unacceptable.

“Our health service is creaking, 300 in hospital and 30 people dead in week. Ignoring these facts is why we are in Tier 3 measures.”

Northern Ireland announces tightest UK restrictions

The comments came as Northern Ireland on Wednesday introduced the tightest COVID-19 restrictions in the UK, closing schools, pubs and restaurants to slow the spread of the virus.

The restrictions will last for two-weeks for schools and four weeks for pubs and restaurants, although take away service will be able to continue.

The announcement came after talks among political parties in the region’s power-sharing government that stretched from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

“This is not the time for trite political points,” First Minister Arlene Foster told politicians at the regional assembly in Belfast.

“This is the time for solutions.”

Britain already has Europe’s deadliest outbreak, with over 43,000 confirmed deaths, and Northern Ireland has the highest infection rate in the UK.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Northern Ireland has recorded 1,156 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people, compared with 995 in Wales, 960 in England and 755 in Scotland.

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Posted 2ddays ago, updated 2ddays ago